Calistoga Farmhouse Modern - Rebuilding after a Devastating Fire
After Craig’s clients lost their Calistoga vacation rental to the 2017 Tubbs fire, they decided to re-build something completely unique and self-sufficient.
With a vision to create a beautiful, comfortable, functional and flexible space for corporate events and retreats as well as family vacations, the couple hired Craig to design a somewhat “off–the-grid” home, equipped with its own well, Tesla-powered wall and solar paneling, fireproof siding, energy-efficient lighting, and other cutting-edge, eco-friendly features.
“... it was refreshing to be able to design something completely new, energy-efficient and fire safe as well as aesthetically open, balanced and light-filled.” - Craig O’Connell
Craig is thrilled to help the clients achieve a completely self-sustainable home. “The only structure that survived the fire was the pool,” he says. “While it is unfortunate that the home was lost in the fire, it was fortunate that the clients had good insurance and it was refreshing to be able to design something completely new, energy-efficient and fire safe as well as aesthetically open, balanced and light-filled.”
When it comes to the design process, Craig says each project varies, but he usually initially comes up with five to seven options based on the natural elements of the site including trees, views and light; the vernacular design of the area; and the clients needs, wants and desired aesthetic. He spends a lot of time hand-sketching over the site plan, and then narrows it down to two or three options to present. From there, tweaks and additions are made based on client feedback and Craig’s creative process, so the design and initial vision can find common ground.
“I still love to draw on trace paper for my initial design concepts, which is a classic many-layered design process that I learned 20 years ago in architecture school,” he says. With the current project, Craig was inspired by the Calistoga vernacular with a modern farm/barn twist. He honed into what the clients did not like about the previous home and provided the opposite such as a more open floor plan that flowed seamlessly between the living spaces and various areas conducive to socializing and kids’ play and worked in more guest rooms. “My design process took all those things into account, and I’ve found the clients to be great decision makers.”
Lifetime Bay Area natives, the clients reside primarily in Mill Valley, and wanted to create something special with this Calistoga rebuild. The structures, measured at 3,000 square feet, will include three buildings: a barn and the house— a one-story building and a two-story building—that connects with a stunning 20-foot steel and glass breezeway, a unique addition that can be open-air in the summer months or closed off in the rainy season. A stunning architectural feature, the breezeway will also allow for separating the structures to create privacy for groups staying at the property.
Now under construction, Craig designed the home in a “farmhouse modern” aesthetic with an open-floor plan that includes the kitchen, dining and living space. Large Fleetwood door opening systems will be installed in each building (two in Building 1 and two off the bedroom to the pool in Building 2). Each ground floor is also equipped with beautiful concrete floors, a detail Craig is especially excited about, due to its rich color and smooth texture akin to the couple’s Mill Valley home’s concrete floors.
Off-grid & fire safe with modern amenities
This high-tech house is powered completely by a Tesla wall, lighting control and solar paneling. There is also a well for water and septic and the home is striving to be off-the-grid. The GC, Tamalpais Construction, is currently pursuing a rain water capture system. The home is also fire safe with sprinklers, thicker walls and DensGlass Sheathing, making it up-to-code with all post-fire building requirements.
Currently, the exterior wall framing and roofs are up and the concrete floors were just poured for Building 1 and 2. Next up is window and door installation with all electrical plumbing, aimed to be complete in the next few months. The project is estimated to be completed in the winter.
We look forward to sharing the progress on this project with future blog posts and on our Instagram feed, so stay tuned.
Donate to fire victims
“Our clients were lucky to have sufficient insurance and means to fund the rebuild, but we realize many families in the area were not as fortunate,” says Craig. “Immediately following the fire, we made a donation to our local community center which was serving as a critical shelter for many families who were evacuated or lost their homes. Fire season is coming up again, so please make sure your fire insurance is up-to-date and you have cleared a defensible space around your house. ”
To make a donation to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, a disaster fund addressing the community’s mid-to-long-term recovery needs, please visit The Sonoma County Resilience Fund.